Retirement has been a hot button topic in our country since the baby boomers took over in the eighties. Never has it spouted more fevered debates than right now, with Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. In the past few years, a lot of famous names in world politics have chosen to step down from their public position, but it often begs the question- When SHOULD we retire or resign; be it from business or politics? We wish it was a simple, straight answer but like all things in the corporate world, it’s not that easy.
Many are hailing the pope for leaving while still in good health and before having succumbed to the pains of old age. But are we, as the public, allowed to say when someone does or doesn’t retire? At what point are we overstepping our boundaries? To explore the topic further, take a look at some other high profile retirements in the last few years of world politics.
Recent High Profile Retirements
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is set to retire on April 30th of this year, ending her thirty-three year rule of Holland, and passing the throne to her son, who will be the first king in a line of one-hundred-twenty three years. While many cried foul of the gender switch, there are some who see this shift in power as healthy with a successor coming from either side of the gender divide. The way this will affect the Netherlands remains to be seen.
Another example is from 2008, when Fidel Castro stepped down from his fifty year communist rule, citing medical problems that would inhibit his job performance abilities. While this excited many who thought the communist rule over Cuba would shift with his departure, he temporarily gave his role to his brother, Raul Castro, opening the door down the road for someone potentially younger to take the throne. But since Fidel remains a major voice in Cuba’s affairs, his retirement means little. This, in turn, takes weight off the very concept of retirement in world politics.
All this all retirement talk opens the door for a question just as epic in scope, that has been floundering about message boards and news shows for some time now: Should Queen Elizabeth retire? She is old-school in her methodology, and represents a time that has long since passed for the UK. Prince Charles has been heir to the throne since he was three years old, and many have wondered at what point he will assume his duties. The general reaction from British press is that it won’t happen anytime soon. Queen Elizabeth is in perfect health, and let us not forget her Mother lived to be 101 years old. Even though Queen Beatrix opened the door for this discussion, don’t expect her retirement to start a trend.
Finding a Retirement Formula
This takes us back to our first point, when SHOULD people retire, especially from a position of power or a family business?
That, for all intents and purposes, is up to the individual and those around him with the authority to make such decisions. While it has been said that aging dulls response time and decision making, you also have to weigh the person’s experience and wisdom in the area of what he has been doing before you cast him aside. Look at someone like Bob Lutz, the former Vice Chairman for the General Motors Company; he is a prime example of how each case is different. The man is eighty years old, and even when he retires from one position, he often just moves into to another one. This happens because Lutz is the best at what he does and still fully capable of doing it well at his age.
Business and politics coexist in the same breath because they function the same way. So if someone is getting old enough that he is negatively impacting his job performance, companies tend to act quickly before any real damage is done. When it comes to retirement, actual age means little. It is how well you do your job that speaks volumes and keeps you around.